SIX BITS: Miller, Francis, Chiozza, Tebow, Demps

1 » Former Florida Gators guard Mike Miller cleared amnesty waivers on Thursday and officially became a free agent but may have already decided on his next stop. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Oklahoma City Thunder are “frontrunners” to sign Miller and plan to meet with him on Friday in Miami, FL. Though Miller does want to play for a contender, the most the Thunder can offer him is the veteran’s minimum of $1.4 million. No team bid on Miller during the waiver process because he has considered having back surgery this offseason. Because he passed through waivers, he will earn the full $12.8 million remaining on his Miami Heat contract in addition to whatever deal he agrees to sign with a new team. That is one reason why he may decide to accept a veteran’s minimum contract over a slightly more lucrative deal from another franchise. Others reportedly in contention for Miller’s services are one of his former teams, Memphis, along with Houston, Golden State and San Antonio.

Miami thanked Miller for his three years of service with this full-page newspaper advertisement in Thursday’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

2 » Florida head coach Will Muschamp will join the 13 other Southeastern Conference coaches by participating in ESPN’s “Car Wash” from July 22-23 in Bristol, CT, the network announced on Thursday. Muschamp will be featured on the second day of the festivities from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. OnlyGators.com will have a live blog and full coverage of Muschamp going through the ringer on Tuesday.

3 » Gators four-star 2014 commitment G Brandone Francis (Jacksonville, FL) was a big get for a team looking to add some major scoring talent. A native of the Dominican Republic like former Florida big man Al Horford, Francis told Scarberry Media’s Zach Fleer that the Atlanta Hawks center played a big role in his pledge. “I grew up watching Florida play because of him, you know?” Francis said. “I just fell in love with the school and now knowing that I’m going to wear that jersey, [it] means more than one feeling to me.” He also Gator Chomps after good baskets (see below).

Check out three more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Miller, Francis, Chiozza, Tebow, Demps

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FOUR BITS: ESPYS, Murphy, Williams-Mills

1 » The Florida Gators will have the opportunity to win an award at the ESPYS for the third-straight year as two former student-athletes have been nominated in separate categories. U.S. Women’s National Team striker Abby Wambach is up for Best Record-Breaking Performance after setting the career international goal-scoring record in June. She will have to beat out quarterback Drew Brees (broke Johnny Unitas’s touchdown record), wide receiver Calvin Johnson (broke Jerry Rice’s season yardage record) and swimmer Michael Phelps (most decorated Olympian of all-time). Swimmer Ryan Lochte hopes to win Best Male U.S. Olympian but will have to earn votes over Phelps and decathlete Ashton Eaton. Wambach won an ESPY for Best Play in 2011 with QB Tim Tebow bringing home the award for Best Moment in 2012. The 2013 ESPYS will be held on Wednesday, July 17 at 9 p.m. and air live on ESPN.

2 » Holding up a No. 31 jersey at his team’s introductory press conference on Monday, new Chicago Bulls forward Erik Murphy is excited to get started and will begin working out with Chicago this week ahead of NBA Summer League action. The Bulls will compete in summer league games from July 12-22 at the Thomas & Mack Center and COX Pavilion in Las Vegas, NV. Chicago general manager Gar Forman said Monday that he is excited to see what Murphy, the No. 49 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, brings to the table. “We really haven’t had a guy that’s a stretch four,” he said. “We think as he continues to progress, it will give us an ability to space the floor.” The Bulls also released this one-on-one interview [Video] with Murphy from Monday.

3 » Former Gators sprinter Novlene Williams-Mills, who raced for Jamaica in the 2012 London Olympics and brought home bronze in the 4×400 Meter Relay, was diagnosed with breast cancer about a month before the games but never told anyone except for her husband, family and friends. In a feature by Laura Williamson of the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail, Williams-Mills discusses the trying time, her mindset during the Olympics, deciding to have a double mastectomy and how she is doing now (hint: very well). Just one week ago, she won her seventh Jamaican national championship, finishing first in the women’s 400 meters and advancing to the 2013 IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Moscow, Russia, from Aug. 10-18. Williams-Mills will look to win her sixth World Championship medal to go along with her three Olympic bronzes.

4 » Three Florida swimmers will represent their country as USA Swimming competes at the 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Spain, from July 19-Aug. 4. Over the last week, rising senior Elizabeth Beisel (200 Meter Individual Medley, 400 Meter I.M.), Conor Dwyer (200 Meter Freestyle, 200 Meter I.M.) and Ryan Lochte (200 Meter Freestyle, 200 Meter Backstroke, 100 Meter Butterfly, 200 Meter I.M., 4×100 Meter Freestyle Relay) advanced in their respective events during the 2013 Phillips 66 National Championships in Indianapolis, IN. Lochte, the current world record holder in the 200 Meter I.M. (a mark he set in 1:54.00 at the World Championships two years ago), won national titles in three of his events and was the only one of the Gators’ competitors to finish first in any race; Beisel finished second in both of her events.

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Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2010 (check out our post tomorrow), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players signing huge contracts to current team members being a part of some of the biggest news stories in sports this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2010. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 10 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

10 » FIVE BECOME A PART OF THE GATOR NATION IN THE SKY
It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2010 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon and suddenly in all but one case. Lamar Abel (21), a walk-on defensive lineman, suffered cardiac arrest while volunteering at a roadside cleanup event with his fraternity in Gainesville, FL. Former safety John Curtis (24) committed suicide in Bellvue, WA. Hall of fame safety Jarvis Williams (45) passed away after an acute asthma attack. Former Gators basketball player and friend to the program Augie Greiner (76) died in his home. And long-time donor and Bull Gator George Steinbrenner (80), most famously known as the owner of the New York Yankees, passed away in a Tampa, FL, hospital. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.

9 » ERIN ANDREWS GETS JUSTICE, STARS ON TV, RE-SIGNS WITH ESPN

Former Florida dazzler and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews had a much better go of it in 2010. Though her stalker plead guilty to his charges in court in December 2009, she spent a good portion of 2010 making sure he was brought to justice (27-month prison term) while also spreading word across the country that violence against women from sexual predators cannot and should not be tolerated. Simultaneously, Andrews participated in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and even dropped a few Gator Chomps along the way. She ended up finishing third in the competition but parlayed her talent on the sidelines into an enhanced gig with the Worldwide Leader in Sports. Andrews signed a new two-year deal with ESPN, which included a role hosting the first hour of College GameDay live on ESPNU, appearances on ABC’s Good Morning America and more of a presence on the family of networks. She also spoke with OGGOA on two occasions, first in a wide-ranging interview that received significant publicity and later to share her thoughts on the resignation of head coach Urban Meyer.

Continue Reading » Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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FOUR BITS: Debose, Lee, softball, tennis honors

1 » Having to sit out the 2009 season due to a hamstring injury, Florida Gators redshirt freshman wide receiver Andre Debose is on the road to recovery. Debose, who underwent surgery months ago, was last reported to be able to run in a pool on Jan. 3. Now, Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel reports that Debose can now run on a treadmill at full speed and is not expected to need a second surgery as rumored. OGGOA reached out to Debose for an update on his injury, but he did not wish to speak about it. Though he will not be a full participant in spring practices next month, he will likely be able to workout in non-contact drills.

2 » Former Florida forward/center David Lee, in the middle of a career season with the New York Knicks, has been named as one of 27 players on the U.S. National Team. Lee will have an opportunity to compete for a roster spot in the 2010 World Championships and 2012 Olympic Games.

3 » The Southeastern Conference released its 2010 Preseason All-SEC softball team Wednesday, and four Gators have been honored on the squad. Florida led all programs with four of 12 total selections, including junior pitcher Stephanie Brombachter, senior outfielder Francesca Enea, junior utility player Kelsey Bruder and junior second baseman Aja Paculba. For Enea and Pachulba, this is the second consecutive year they have been named to the team.

4 » Women’s tennis players senior Marrit Boonstra and freshman Caroline Hitimana were named Player and Freshman of the Week, respectively, by the SEC on Wednesday. Both Boonstra and Hitimana went 4-0 in their respective matches last week.

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Ex-Gators decathlete going for gold in Vancouver

Former and current Florida Gators student-athletes usually find a home in the Summer Olympics; however, when it comes to the Winter Olympics, appearances are few and far between. That changed in 2006 when Steve Mesler, a scholarship decathlete who earned a degree in exercise and sport science from the University of Florida in 2000, competed in his first Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy.

After graduation, Mesler wanted to continue his athletic career and tried out for bobsled in San Diego, CA, in June 2001. After practicing with Todd Hays’ four-man team for a few years, Mesler participated in the 2006 Games in Torino; his team’s sled would finish in seventh place.

Four seasons with Hays’ team was enough for Mesler, who moved on to the aptly nicknamed “Night Train,” a four-man sled squad piloted by Steve Holcomb. Night Train has been on a tear since coming together, starting with winning the 2009 World Championships in Lake Placid, NY, the United States’ first four-man world title in 50 years. The team has since captured the 2010 World Cup title (for the first time in 17 years) and the 2010 World Cup overall crown.

Team Holcomb is now the medal favorite heading into the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver with Mesler occupying the third slot in the sled. On each run, he is responsible for managing the balance and speed of the sled, partially due to the fact that he is the team’s fastest member stemming from his days as a decathlete with the Gators.

The two-time Olympian (he was a reserve in 2002) is a key member of the USA-1 sled, which could be the first in 62 years (since 1948) to bring home a gold medal for the United States in the Olympics. “Right now, we are the team to beat,” Holcomb told the Associated Press on Friday.

Keep an eye out for the futuristic-looking, shiny black USA-1 “Night Train” sled at the Whistler Sliding Centre during the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.



OGGOA Related Story: Mesler’s family was scammed out of $7,332 and lodging by a Whistler house rental company. They have since received the money back.

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